Comments: Is there a limit to how many layers of metal can be fused together to make the bottom of a pan? Quite possibly not. Manufacturers fiddle with layers of copper (the best conductor of heat), aluminum (next best, but reactive with some foods), anodized aluminum (incredibly strong and less reactive), stainless steel (many virtues, but not a great conductor), etc., and the thickness and arrangement of those layers, all in hopes of finding pan Nirvana (which may not exist…)
A more relevant question may be, is there a point at which a good home cook cannot practically discern the differences between one good pan and another – no matter how many layers of metal are on the bottom? Even testing pans constantly in the Ochef test kitchen, we often cannot find much practical difference. At what point does butter burn in the pan over high heat? When does the roux burn? When does cream boil over? At some point it is less about the quality of the pan and more about the attentiveness of the cook. Restaurant kitchens do not generally use the fanciest pans, but the cooks give them all of their attention.
Falling in love with a pan often comes down to personal preferences and small details, like pan weight and how wide the handle is. It would be nice if everyone had a chance to test drive many pans before deciding on something they're likely to cook with for 20 years or more.
Into this fray comes the Anolon Nouvelle Copper line. These anodized aluminum pans have a layer of aluminum at their base that is encapsulated with copper followed by more aluminum and finished with an impact-bonded magnetized stainless steel bottom. The manufacturer says this creates outstanding heat distribution and will work on all stovetops, including induction. It has a "restaurant-tested" nonstick interior and can be used in the oven up to 500°F (260°C). The very serious cast stainless steel handle is attached to the pan body using flush-rivet technology, which along with the nonstick interior makes clean-up quick and easy.
In our tests, it worked great. The nonstick surface performed admirably. With its little strip of copper showing at the bottom, it looks elegant. It's silly for us to say so, since you can get pans in every size, but we love the size of this 12-inch pan. The bottom is not so huge than you can't fry a couple of eggs, but the sides flare up so broadly, that it seems like you could cook enough food for a modest sports team. We find that anodized aluminum discolors in the dishwasher, so hand-washing is best.